Anita Devi

On 1st October 2016 NASBTT hosted the first meeting of a working party that included ITT providers, NASBTT colleagues and SEND specialists, like me. Our remit was to create a practical resource that would enable ITT providers to identify the gaps in their existing programmes, find suitable ways to embed SEND practice and expertise, and monitor and refine the effectiveness of their new approach.

Five months later the NASBTT ITT SEND Toolkit – – was launched with keynote speeches from Professor Sam Twiselton (Founding Director of the Sheffield Institute of Education), Margaret Mulholland (SEN and inclusion specialist, and a member of UCET’s executive committee) and Angela Milner HMI (Specialist Adviser for ITE at Ofsted). The foundation of the Toolkit was created by critically analysing key themes across The Carter Review (2015), The 0-25 years SEND Code of Practice (2015) and A Framework of Core Content for Initial Teacher Training (2016).

Since its launch in 2017, the toolkit has been used extensively by both ITT and ITE providers to the point where those delivering NQT programmes are having to rethink their SEND programme, as more and more trainees are coming through with extensive knowledge about supporting children and young people with SEND. Fast forward to 2019 and the Early Career Framework (ECF) is published by the Department for Education, with trials beginning at the start of a new decade. Exciting times, for sure.

Einstein, who is thought to have had Asperger’s syndrome, once said: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”. With the rise of special educational needs in schools, there is a need to do things differently for trainees and early career teachers. We want to build a system that is supportive, sustaining and sensitively compassionate.

So, what exactly do we need to do differently?

  1. We need to move away from quick fix-it strategies. Teachers need depth of understanding about child and adolescent development, as well as high-quality teaching.
  2. We need to move away from labels to understanding and knowing what this means for the child and young person, as they develop and function in an educational environment.
  3. We need to move away from paperwork to focusing on knowing with confidence what makes a real difference in the classroom and how can we increase the independence of children and young people into adulthood.

None of this will happen overnight, but we have to start somewhere. For me, the starting pointing is how we view and share the four areas of need (Communication and interaction, Cognition and learning, Social, emotional and mental health, and Physical and sensory) with trainees and those in the early part of their career. Where would you start to build in the change for doing things differently?

Anita Devi is a former SENCO, senior leader, school improvement advisor and local authority SEND advisory leader. She has a wealth of experience in developing leaders of learning, and her own teaching career spans early years to postgraduate education both in the UK and overseas. In 2017 she was awarded the prestigious international Influential Educational Leaders Award for her contribution to the SEND workforce pipeline strategy which supports the development of professionals form ITT to advanced and experienced SENCOs. Her book in the Essential Guides for Early Career Teachers series, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, edited by NASBTT Executive Director Emma Hollis and published by Critical Publishing, is available to pre-order now at


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